I have been helping families find wonderful summer programs for over 30 years and I thought I had seen every challenge there is. I have watched camps handle lice infestations, meningitis scares, 9/11, Zika, rainy summers, recessions and more. Covid 19 is a new kind of challenge for camps and teen trips as well as for camp advisers and families like yours and mine. Tips on Trips and Camps gets daily emails from the camps we represent optimistically telling us how they are planning for summer 2020. Programs may start at a different date, the sessions may be altered, and health screens ramped up, but to paraphrase one Adirondack camp; We are all Camp People, and for two months of summer we deal with uncertainty constantly. We are resilient and determined and we are accustomed to adjusting the plan. That sentiment will be put to the test for sure. I believe the camp industry is up to the task!
A recent Forbes article discussed how overnight camps do a great job teaching kids the soft skills they need to flourish as adults. Sleepaway camp is a multi-layered experience that prepares children for college and beyond.
Teamwork, conflict resolution, problem-solving, leadership and communication skills, resilience, decision-making, empathy, and friendship building are just some of the ways children can grow when children attend camp. Each camp day provides so many opportunities for growth – setting a goal, learning a new skill, trying a new activity, navigating friendships, being a team captain, earning a reward for a job well done, comforting a bunkmate, completing a chore, and more.
I see how sleepaway camp helped with the development of soft-skills in my own house. Once our children have exposure to all these skills at camp, then it’s easy for us to continue herding them toward independence when they return home. My oldest child started college this fall, and he has done a great job transitioning to an independent life. From self-care to advocating for himself, I can see how his camp experience provided a kind and stable base for him to learn and try out all the skills he needs to create a joyful and purposeful life. I am thankful for his camp experiences and it is part of the reason I enjoy helping other families find the best camps and programs for their children. Please let us know how we can help your family.
The subject of childhood mental health is everywhere, and the sleepaway camps and teen programs we recommend for your children are on the frontlines for providing care in these anxious times. While stress levels may go down away from school, anxiety and depression don’t magically disappear for the summer, so camp and program directors spend a lot of time and resources making sure their staffs are prepared to take the best possible care of your children. At our recent Tips on Trips and Camps annual meeting, we asked all of the visiting program directors to talk to us about how they prepare for and manage mental issues and crises. Here are the top takeaways from our meeting:
- Summer program directors and leaders are not medical professionals and cannot “fix” a child’s challenges. Appropriate expectations are critical for the child’s success in any summer program.
- It may be uncomfortable to be upfront about a child’s mental health history, but summer programs can do a much better job caring for children when they are aware of any diagnosis, counseling, or significant life events (like a death in the family or a divorce). This will not necessarily disqualify your child from participating.
- When considering a teen trip, sometimes a program will feel a specific itinerary may be a better choice because of the size or staffing. Parents may also want to consider the age and experience of the trip or program leaders.
- While sleepaway camps generally have all medications dispensed by a nurse or medical professional, teen programs generally require their participants to manage their medications. It’s an important consideration for parents of teens who take medications.
Children with mental health challenges can have fun and rewarding summer adventures, but choosing the right program and the right director will make all the difference in a child’s chances for success. Tips on Trips and Camps is a great place to start the search.
Every Tips on Trips and Camps advisor spends part of their summer checking in with several of the camps we represent. I spent a week in New Hampshire and Vermont this past July visiting some of our camps, including a few that are new to us for 2020. We share our findings, so we all have the most up to date information possible. Together our advisors visited about 100 camps this summer, and we are so excited to tell you about the ones that just right for your child!
I’m not sure my fellow advisors agree with me, but I love eating at the camps I visit. I have food allergies, and it’s great to experience how well the camps care for children that have dietary preferences or restrictions. I’ve found that most camps have terrific tasting healthy food and have a lot of pride in the efforts of their kitchen staff. Every camp is aware of the many different ways people today, and they happily work with families to make sure they meet every camper’s needs.
I also really enjoy peeking into the bunks. Generally, camp directors bring us into tidy bunks, but occasionally we catch sight of a bunk that looks like a tornado went through, and you can imagine how the kids were in such a hurry to get to their next amazing activity. I swear you can feel the excitement they left behind in the chaos.
I’m already keeping my list of where I’ll visit next summer. Can’t wait!
I went to three different sleep away camps starting in elementary up through high school, and none of them were right. I’d never before or since had trouble making friends, but I didn’t feel like I fit in at any of those camps. And they were terrific high-quality camps that today as a camp advisor I have have no hesitation recommending. I went for eight weeks each summer, and that was a long time to feel out of sorts. All of my friends from home also attended sleep-away camps, and they all had great stories of fun and friendship which I wanted so very much for myself. I loved the idea of sleepaway camp, just not my sleepaway camps. Now as a camp advisor I know that there are camps for every type of child. I would have flourished at a laid-back, not too spirited, non-competitive place with lots of non-team sport options, and where the activities were mixed ages and selected by the campers. And isn’t it great that there camps like that? No matter your child’s personality or needs, there’s a camp for them.
As I am sure many parents can relate, social media and cell phones are making me crazy. Have you noticed how all the kids (and adults) are constantly scrolling, texting and watching things on their devices? Not only is this bad for their mental development, we are raising the next group of hunchback adults.
As I was strolling thru camps earlier this summer, I started to notice how happy all the campers looked. They were so happy talking to their friends, playing games and just being outside. Imagine that – all of these smiles and no Snapchat or Instagram to capture it. How amazing!! You know what else was amazing? They all made eye contact because their heads weren’t hunched down starting at a screen. Call me old-fashioned, but I truly believe that kids are happier at camp because it is now the only place where they can disconnect from the world, but more importantly, they are making real life connections. Laughing with their friends, making memories and feeling good about themselves.
My love for camp is stronger than ever. Can anything really replace face to face fun? How about a time for your child to feel good about themselves and doing things they can truly enjoy, not because they want to post it. Let’s take this a step further. Now I know I may get a lot of backlash from my nearest and dearest but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if camp directors eased up on the camp pictures. I can hear the loud protests. Hear me out – I recently visited a camp that did not post pictures. When I asked the director why not, he said, “kids act differently when they don’t have to be on”. Hmm – that’s true. He then continued, “This is their journey, not their parents”. Even I had to sheepishly admit he was right.
This camp also had the highest percentage of former campers coming back multiple years as counselors. A coincidence? Maybe, but it is something to think about.
Check out tiny houses for sale which you can take on your camping trip to have fun with your family.
Fall is my favorite time of year, with the darker mornings, the crisper air, and the nighttime that comes earlier. Fall is also about the start of something new – setting new goals for the “school year” and, for me, reorganizing my life to ready the new Tips on Trips and Camps season.
With school in full swing, it’s time to start thinking about Summer 2017 – not only for parents, but for me, too! As a Tips on Trips Advisor, fall is the time to start planning. This means getting ready for the Annual Tips on Trips and Camps meeting held over a 3-day period at the end of October.
These three days are when we advisors gear up for the new season! We hear from teen trip directors about what’s new in their programming for the coming summer. My colleagues and I exchange information about the camps and programs we visited during the past summer. We share our on-site reports, so that we can benefit from each others’ visits. Finally, we receive loads of evaluations from families whose children participated in all types of adventures this past summer.
For much of the three days while directors are presenting their new and exciting summer programs, I sit in awe wishing I could attend some of these programs myself! Needless to say, I return to my hometown of Los Angeles energized, with exciting and the most up-to-date information to share with families! I say it again, “fall is my favorite time of year!”
Thanksgiving has come and gone. We’ve all had our fair share of leftovers. Now, holiday shopping begins. Black Friday…Cyber Monday… where do we get the best deals? While we all brainstorm what gifts to buy, some of the best choices cannot be purchased by standing in line for hours, or by using a coupon code. Give your children a gift that will last them a lifetime.
A summer camp or teen program is an invaluable gift to give your child. Whether it’s through the friendships that are made at camp, engaging in community service, traveling to a faraway location, or a host of other choices, summer programs provide endless possibilities of growth and innumerable memories. Now is the perfect time to contact your local Tips on Trips and Camps advisor and discuss the options available.
Is your child already signed up for camp or a summer travel program? There are many gift options to consider this time of year that will continue your child’s excitement:
- A camp sweatshirt or other clothing item
- A camp blanket for those chilly nights
- Travel accessories (toiletry kit, duffle bag)
- Fun stationery
- New water bottles or fans
Many camps have links on their websites to companies who sell items specifically for that camp. Go online and check it out. You’ll find fun options.
If you have not yet decided on a summer experience, the holidays are the perfect time for you to look at summer programs with your child. What better gift . . . than the gift of an amazing summer experience!
In our 45th year, the consultants at Tips on Trips and Camps are gearing up now to help families find a diverse assortment of summer programs for your children 8-19.
We can help you connect with experiences that offer a lifetime of Thanks…
-Innovative and sustainable service projects for budding environmental conservationists, sight-seekers, and language enthusiasts
-Experiential travel that offers meaningful service and cultural/language immersion to prepare for the changing future
– A vast array of professional internships in major U.S./World Cities
-Academic and career studies at major U.S Universities and Abroad
-Student leadership programs
-Developing Sport’s Enthusiasts
-Enhancing Music, Theatre, Dance and Visual Arts
-Traditional summer camp for all ages and interests
-Gap Year Service opportunities
Contact the consultant nearest you to learn how your child can discover and be thankful for new opportunities and adventures. Opportunities include trekking through mountains and rainforests diving or sailing, safari adventure, meaningful service working hands-on with local children and families, animals, farm-to-table culinary skills…. the list goes on…
or just a blissful summer to unplug at CAMP!
Giving thanks to all our new and old TOTS families,
You called a Tips on Trips and Camps advisor because you want to find a sleepaway camp that is the best fit for your child. You have the brochures, have watched the DVD’s and spoken with the directors. Ready to decide? Not yet!! Before enrolling your child in any overnight camp or teen summer program, CALL REFERENCES.
There is no substitute for a conversation with a family whose child currently goes to a camp or has gone on a teen travel program. Ask them specific and detailed questions about their child’s experience. What did they love? What was not so good? How did the camp handle any concerns the parents had? How was the staff?
Decisions about where to go to sleepaway camp are multi-year decisions. Close the loop and finish the job by calling references.